Can GERD stop me from breathing?

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Rusty Ferguson
New Member

Date Joined Jul 2012
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 7/1/2012 5:22 PM (GMT -6)   
I had an alarming episode two nights ago. It is not the first time it has happened. I have GERD, which to me isn't really a major issue considering the other problems. i wake up and I can't breath. I can take short breaths. Part of the problem is I am too asleep to really recall exactly what is happening. It is always associated with severe burning in my throat. It is almost like my lungs are having a spasm. Anyone have a clue what is going on with this? I never thought it was dangerous but now I wonder. I usually don't even take zantac ever night but I think I will start doing that.

I've got so much going on that its hard to know what is actually causing the issue but the taste and sensation of stomach acid is always associated with this. I also have lupus and sclreoderma. Sclero is new and I've not been feeling well at all lately. Just very tired.

It takes a few moments for this to clear and my breathing to return to normal. Less than a minute. I have significant trouble swallowing. That has gotten tot he point where I feel like choking to death is a real possibility but it is most often caused with fluids.

I live in the Philippines and having some issues with access to good medical care. The doctors in the small town I live in don't feel qualified to treat me.

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 7188
   Posted 7/1/2012 9:16 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Rusty,
Welcome to the Healing Well GERD forum!  I'm not sure if I'm interpreting your description properly, but to me it sounds as if you might have vocal cord dysfunction.  It can be caused by GERD--especially LPR--and the effect of acid on the vocal chords.  My asthma doc gave me this information.
Here's a link with some information:
The information below will help you learn how to react and breathe through an episode. 
If I'm off base, I apologize.  It's the first thing I thought of when I heard what you'd experienced. 
Good luck in finding answers!
Take care,

Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion

(Vocal Cord Dysfunction)


Relaxed Throat Breathing Exercises


During practice:


1.  Sip water before and after doing these exercises.

2.  Exercises:


A.  Shoulders Down 

This is the cue for you to relax


B.  Hand on abdomen

This helps you focus on easy abdominal breath support--the best and most relaxed way to breathe.


C.  Gentle, quick "sip" of air IN  (sip, sip, sip)

Breathe through your mouth

Relaxed lips

about 1 second inhale each sip


D.  Gentle blow OUT  (blow, blow, blow)

Through slightly tight lips

about 2-3 seconds for each blow out


3.  Practice 5 reps, 20 times per day when you are NOT having symptoms.


4.  Make it automatic, and use it at the first sense of throat tightness to prevent or suppress the VDC.  You may start with the inhale or the exhale.


5.  Use it to "pre-treat" yourself before known triggers for VCD. 


6.  This technique can also be a "stress buster" tool to use in other situations.

Words of wisdom by Eckhart Tolle:
"Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.”

“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose”

“Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

Elite Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 14475
   Posted 7/1/2012 9:37 PM (GMT -6)   
Rusty, I have lupus too. Part of lupus can cause problems with your GI and lungs. See if you can get your doctor to give you steriods and plaquenil or some other biologic.
You also need to sleep with you head elevated 8 inches and take your antiacids.
Go see us on the lupus forum for more info.

Rusty Ferguson
New Member

Date Joined Jul 2012
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 7/1/2012 11:15 PM (GMT -6)   
Thnanks Joy and dencha.

I'l go check out that link.

Its been going on for years but not very often. It was more frequent in the past. The chocking has become worse though.

My biggest issue right now are my hands and feet, I can really walk very much with my hands and feet covered over. I really need to find out if there is something i can do to help my feet. Lots of fish oil seems to help. I am taking prednisone but I"m diabetic so that's not good. Trying to take it every other day to keep the yeast infections down. i seem to be falling apart. Can't take plaquenil as i had complications with my eyes from it. My vision has become bad along with the scaling on my hands and feet and I think it is related to sclero. I was nearly symptom free for years. Sure would like to get back to that.

Rusty Ferguson
New Member

Date Joined Jul 2012
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 7/1/2012 11:23 PM (GMT -6)   
It is hard to describe what it going on. It doesn't sound like VCD but maybe it is. Its quite severe but short lived.

Acid reflux is related to this. Yes, I will be taking zantac. :)

The choking I'm having I THINK is related to nervous system issues. The flap that covers the airway doesn't work as it should and things go down the wrong way. I think that is what Joy is referring to. It is more common with sclero. I don't have any throat tightening. I probably need to be back on methotrexate.

I'm going to move back to the city when I can but it will be a year before i can do that.

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 7188
   Posted 7/2/2012 7:59 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Rusty,
Does the lung/breathing problem continue throughout the day when you have a nighttime episode?   If reflux is getting into your lungs, then you'd be coughing more throughout the day in response.  If it's just a momentary problem that goes away as soon as it resolves, I don't think it is actual reflux going into your lungs. 
I have the problem of things going down the wrong way sometimes.  Joy provided some great information about that.  If you tuck your chin and bend your head forward when you swallow it can help keep the flap closed.  I've been using that technique when I'm on the treadmill and I want to take a drink.  I was getting some in my lungs and it would make me cough, but using that technique it really helps a lot.
Is there anywhere besides your small town that you could travel to seek medical help?  It sounds as if that would be a good option for you.  You have enough issues that you ought to get some medical advice and care.
Good luck!
Words of wisdom by Eckhart Tolle:
"Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.”

“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose”

“Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

New Member

Date Joined Jul 2012
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 7/5/2012 3:54 AM (GMT -6)   
I am a 28 year old male, 5'10" 200 lbs. and I have had breathing problems for almost 7 years now. My wife is pregnant with our first child, a girl! but I have no health insurance and make $200 a month too much to qualify for gov' assistance so my medical options are very limited. My past includes 9 years of daily chronic marijuana use (clean for over 50 days now and will never return) my usage for the last 4 years has been light, roughly 3-4 hits a day. I also have had a very poor diet most of my life. High in caffeine, sugars, simple carbs etc. (I have began a very strict diet based on my studies of possible Candida overgrowth). I have also had a small esophagus all my life, this results in food getting stuck and not passing into my stomach for up to several hours. My breathing problems began years ago as a simple desire to yawn. I would catch myself constantly keeping my mouth open trying to invoke a yawn. I did this because I felt that I couldn't get the satisfaction of a full deep breath. This would had happen periodically throughout the day but did not affect the quality of my life. 3 years ago, after a long day, I fainted and had a small seizure. The ambulance came and all my vitals checked out fine so I opted to stay home. For the past two years my breathing problems have become a lot worse and have a definite affect on my quality of life. Everyday, for most of the day, I feel like I can't catch a deep and fulfilling breathe. I have noticed it gets worse when I eat. I have felt very close to fainting several times and have the ambulance visit a couple times as well. Still, all my vitals check out so I have never been to the emergency room. I decided to go see a doctor about my problems and she was not able to pin point what is wrong with me. I had several blood tests done, my thyroid check came back great, my blood pressure is good, cholesterol is good, my blood is carrying 98% oxygen, chest x-ray came back clean, lungs sound perfect. So the doc chalked it up to anxiety. I do not believe it is anxiety as I do not feel stressed. The only time I get anxious is when I can't breath. So I attempt to calm down and it doesn't resolve the problem. My breathing problem is a very real problem that feels very physical. Also, I feel like when I am full i have trapped air in my stomach so I 'swallow' more air to force myself to burp. This relieves the trapped air a little bit but it can last for hours. It does not relieve my breathing problem. Furthermore, at night I cannot sleep. When I lay down I cannot breath so I spend most of my night sitting up trying to catch a deep breath. Eventually I do fall asleep but wake up a lot of the time feeling like I need oxygen. I have even been woken up by the need to breathe and my heart was pounding very fast. I am very scared for my health and I need help. Please, if anyone who can relate to what I am going through can share some information with me on how to improve my breathing and quality of life I would forever be grateful. I just want to be able to live a normal life again and enjoy moments with my wife and soon to be child. My breathing problems tend to make me irritable and I tend to need my own space to try and cope with my lack of oxygen. Can someone please help me? Is this GERD?

New Member

Date Joined Jan 2013
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 1/31/2013 6:56 PM (GMT -6)   

I have exactly the same symptoms, however I am able to sleep at night but I occasionally wake up gasping for air in pretty dramatic episodes. I'm had GERD for right around three years, it comes and goes, meaning that it gets worse every now and then. I feel like I can't get a deep breathe. I recently had to go to the ER because the tightness got so bad it my chest and I felt like I couldn't breathe. They did a chest x-ray, EKG, blood work, and a few other tests. All of them came back fine, as well as my blood pressure and cholesterol. Another symptom I can add in, is I'm usually "backed up" as well. Seemed like it all started around my junior year in college, and then got worse after I stopped eating the food that they provided in the cafeteria. Been to the Doctor and they tell me the same thing every time. It's very annoying and I have been looking for anything to fix it. I read that I could possibly have a hernia, as I did play baseball in college, and that a chiropractor could help. That may be my next step to see if anything happens.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2012
Total Posts : 158
   Posted 1/31/2013 8:46 PM (GMT -6)   
It might be gerd, i can not lay down, as i fell my esophagus tightening and can't breathe, i have to sleep elevated
Try to take zantac, priolosec, prevacid or gaviscon, they are over the counter
If they help it means that its reflux
Also u can ask for a barium test to see if u have a lot of reflux or a hiatal hernia
Its cheaper than an endoscopy
Good luck

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2012
Total Posts : 541
   Posted 1/31/2013 11:12 PM (GMT -6)   
I feel bad for you! Even here in the United States you essentially have to travel to obtain a knowledgeable doctor.
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